Most websites, maybe yours, loose over 80 percent or more visitors within a few seconds upon landing on your site after all that hard work you did to get them there. Here is a quote furnished by Google AdWords.
So, you've refined your keywords, optimized your bids, and written AdWords text ads that pull in tons of targeted clicks, but after looking at your Google Analytics reports, you realize that your landing page has a bounce rate of 91%.
In this short time frame, visitors don't have much time to read anything about the site. Like most perception at an early stage, this is a visual thing. Research on website trust shows that people want to know about the company behind the website in an instant.
Which means that 91% of the users coming to your site are quickly glancing around and leaving, deciding immediately that this site isn't for them.
Recent research suggests that users decide to stay or leave your site in 8 seconds or less.
In a nutshell, the problem is website credibility, or rather, lack of credibility.
I did research on website trust relative to the visual (known as the creative) aspects of website credibility as part of my 2006 PhD thesis, "How and Why Credibility-Based Company Logos are Effective in Marketing Communication in Persuading Customers to Take Action: A Multiple Case Study Toward a Better Understanding of Creativity in Branding." Dr. B. J. Fogg of Stanford University did a study on website credibility covering various non-visual aspects some six years ago. (Fogg, B.J. et al, 2001, "What makes websites credible? A report on a large quantitative study", Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems.)
What follows is a summary of our respective findings on website credibility, and what website company owners can do to increase credibility, thus conversion rates. I have arranged the solutions according to when visitors first arrive at the website, then what they do afterwards because this is how we perceive and evaluate company websites for credibility.
First Glance Web Optimization
When visitors land on a website, the first thing they do is mentally evaluate in an instant whether they can trust the information on the site enough to continue. Like all information, this is a matter of whether or not the source of the information can be trusted to overcome perceptions of risk, uncertainty and even possible identity theft. Trust or no trust happens during the visitor's initial impressions or "first glance" at a website when visitor is still unfamiliar with the vendor.
In people to people interaction, we evaluate the person doing the talking before we accept the person's message. On a website, we evaluate the company behind the information. The company is evaluated at "first glance" during the first three seconds of a website encounter.
But on a website, the initial period of trust is not based on personal experience with the vendor. The visitor and vendor do not have a personal relationship history. The visitor makes a trust evaluation on what information, verbal and visual, is available. Otherwise, the vendor is faceless.
Trust is one part of credibility. Expertise is the other. A website cannot have credibility unless both parts are there. The following suggestions will increase website credibility and conversion rates.
1. Show that there is a real organization behind the website, as an honest trustworthy company.
This is done most effectively with a credibility-based logo design sm representing the company. The credible company logo is usually in the upper left hand corner of the website. Perception theory in communication persuasion suggests that people immediately want to know the source of the message which follows. Just like when we often look first for the name of the person on an envelop or post card.
Similarly, visitors to a website look at the company logo, or search for the company name if there is no logo, at "first glance."
2. Show that there is a credible organization behind the website with an appropriately designed credibility-based home page.
A company website home page must be designed with the same appropriate credibility traits as in the company logo. This will also give consistency in credibility traits important to the company behind the website.
Logos and home pages are perceived almost simultaneously. People perceive the "whole" before they perceive the parts. Although the eye will go immediately to the company logo or name (as a part) after perceiving the "whole" or overall visual character of the home page. Thus, the company credibility-based logo design and the home page design must have a consistency in credibility design "look." For example, the logo cannot have a contemporary design and the home page a dated design.
The bottom line with first impressions is that the whole visitor perception, logo and home page, must communicate credibility to assure the visitor continues at this initial web experience --- at "first glance." These first impressions are key to trust building and continued visitor conversions to being a customer.
3. Show professionalism in overall website visual design.
The word "professionalism" is too ambiguous. I will substitute that the whole website must be designed to communicate company credibility as defined in the design of the company logo. Like the home page design above, the design must be consistent with the desired company credibility traits. Then the type font must be compatible with the type font used in the company name. Not the same font however. This is reserved only for the company logo name. On the flip side of credibility-based website design is the use of inappropriate templates, or just bad design. Don't do this. Conversion rates are too important not to look credible.
Let's stop here for a moment. You have probably been stymied about how to look credible with your company logo and company website. Here is a quick tutorial.
Credibility-based logo design process
Source credibility in communication persuasion means that the source is expert and competent AND believable and trustworthy. A credible company must achieve an image in people's minds that it is expert and competent in its field, as well as believable and trustworthy. It cannot be just one without the other. For example, some companies feel that being "liked" is enough. We all like some people too but would not trust these same people with computer repairs or restaurant advice if they know little about these businesses. Remember: Credible = expert + trustworthy.
Credibility based logo design projects the company as being an expert in their business symbolizing the company core competence and communicates the company as being trustworthy and believable with design motifs appropriate for the company expertise. That is, a company must be believable at being able to do the work for which it claims to be an expert.
Expertise and trustworthy define the two import credibility traits for a given company. Take Housen Painting, a small house painter in New York. House paint is the company's business, and field of expertise. The main symbolism is "house" and "painting". This is the Housen Painting logo which is more fully discussed in the next section.
How Does a Graphic Designer Create a Credibility-based Logo Designsm?
Credibility-based logo design philosophy first requires a designer to symbolize the company business as mentioned in the previous section. This says the company is an expert in that business. For example let's use Joe's Shoe Repair. This would be a typical shoe repair shop with a sign hanging on the store front with a simple "shoe" symbol and the identifying text, "Joe's Shoe Repair."
Next, credibility-based logo design philosophy requires a designer to give the "shoe" symbol a design character in a way that characterizes Joe's Shoe Repair ---- how Joe operates. This non-verbally communicates the business character in a trustworthy design motif. There are an infinite variety ways Joe's trust can be communicated, but the trust chosen must represent how Joe operates in reality. Joe could show that he has modern shoe repair equipment and a Gucci environment, which would require a contemporary and classy "shoe" design treatment.
But this is not Joe. In reality Joe does shoe repair the old style hand crafted way, which would be a dated or retro period design with friendly and quality overtones. The objective is to make Joe look trustworthy with traits that define the most descriptive nature of Joe's shoe repair shop which in this example is "experienced,” "professional," "quality work," and "friendly."
As credibility based logo for Joe's Shoe Repair, the "design brief" would require the logo to communicate: expertise = "shoe repair" + trustworthy = "experience", "professional", "quality" and "friendly". This credibility trait logo description would produce a logo design of a shoe with professional, dated, friendly and quality overtones. It must be simple and have high impact as a sign on Joe's shop. This is a credibility-based logo design. The same logo must appear on all areas of public contact. Joe's work apron is a good example.
This approach also demonstrates that if a logo design can be described verbally after it is designed as so many graphic designers and company businesses do, it can also be described before it is designed.
A Credibility-Based Logo Design Case History
My online logo design company, Powerlogos Design, designed a logo for Housen Painting as mentioned above.
We started with symbolizing Tom's basic business --- house painting --- which is his company’s area of expertise. Then, we added design forms which would express Tom's desired trustworthy traits of "highly efficient work" and "clean." This is also how Tom operates in reality.
The Housen Painting logo communicates specific credibility traits defined above. All companies have different credibility traits. An airline like Continental communicates expertise traits of "flying" and trustworthy traits of “highly tech”, "friendly" and “state-of-the-art.”
The credibility traits then which make up our "design brief" are: expert = house painter + trustworthy = highly efficient work and clean = credibility-based logo design. Here are the early progressions incorporating the desired credibility traits leading to the final design:
Finally, the credibility traits come together. This is where the expertise symbol couples with trustworthy traits to become a great, credibility-based logo design as shown here in the final design solution. The logo is also strong, unique, communicates with simplicity and with high impact. This is basic to all logo design. But combined with a company's credibility traits, a great logo appears.
In contrast, an antique shop might want to communicate expertise traits of being in the "antique business" and trustworthy traits of, “been around a long time” and “neighborly." Credibility traits are also true in substance for the company. Meaning that the company "walks the talk."
Credibility-based Website Design
The same credibility traits must be perceived in the overall design of the company's home page as the first step in website design. The home page is the first page a visitor sees and sets the design tone for all subsequent pages. This is easily done after the credibility-based logo design is adopted. The home page simply continues the design motifs define by the company's trustworthy traits. It would be incongruous to have a logo design communicating one image and the home page communicating another.
Consistency in specific company credibility trait visual communication and perception is the key word here.
Now back to the next seven steps to increase website conversion rates which are more easily accomplished.
4. Show the Website is legitimate.
This is very simple. Just list the physical address, phone number and email address. This infers credibility that there really is a company out there. Other things in this category might be bios of the company officers and board members; membership with the Better Business Bureau or Chamber of Commerce. Third party endorsements would include press releases from the media and awards. It also includes links to and from other websites you trust. Finally show that you, the website owner, is credible. The author uses his PhD title as an example of reputed credibility.
5. Make your website easy to navigate.
Dr. Fogg states that his research shows that websites are more credible when they are easy to use, and are useful at the same time. Some designer friends use too much dazzle to show how creative they are. Websites are more like editorial pages of a magazine. They are useful when they inform. They inform when they are easy to navigate to what the visitor is looking for.
6. Update your website from time to time.
This seems obvious, but not often done. I have lawyer friends who have websites they have never seen, yet update. It is important to stay with the same broad subject as your website product or service. Some very astute websites add information useful to their visitors beyond that of their product or service. John Deere offers a whole host of farmer-related subjects for example. This is a great way of keeping potential customers interested and returning to the website. It also gives heightened credibility to the company by adding more on your field of expertise, even if not directly product related.
7. Avoid errors, including communication errors.
Dr. Fogg states that typographical errors and broken links hurt a website's credibility more than most website owners imagine. I would add that having more than one type font or type font size, except for emphasis.
I would also place in this category lack of communication. A website must communicate, communicate, communicate. Not to communicate clearly is a big error, most often unintentional.
For example, small product photos (or photos for any purpose) do not communicate. Words over words do not communicate. Dark colors on top of dark colors do not communicate. Light colors on top of light colors do not communicate.
Shadow fonts do not communicate. Small font size does not communicate. Words that go around in a circle do not communicate. Using a color on one page and another color on another for no reason is confusing and doesn't communicate. Symbols with no direct meaning are confusing and do not communicate.
A lot of white space for no apparent reason is confusing and doesn't communicate. Hard to find menu pages such as "Contact Us" is frustrating and may lose visitors. Or, similarly, disorganized or haphazardly arranged menu categories are frustrating and may lose visitors.
There are more lack of communication examples, but remember to put yourself in the visitors place when it comes to clear communication.
In summary, website visitors become customers when they judge the company behind the website to be credible. Creating a credible website is accomplished without much difficulty in several ways.
The company logo incorporates the company's unique credibility traits. These traits are applied to the design of the company home page to achieve visual credibility consistency. Subsequent pages continue this visual credibility consistency.
Showing legitimacy, updating the website and avoiding errors both typographical errors and communication errors also reflect the company. For first time visitors, the company achieves credibility by the professional way the company looks and operates its website.
Is a credibility-based website worth it? The research I conducted on website credibility concludes that four times as many visitors convert to customers with a credibility-based website.
Dr. Bill Haig worked with Saul Bass during the 60s as his Logo Projects Account
Manager. He is a graduate of UCLA in psychology and has a Master of Arts
degree in Communication with honors from the University of Hawaii and a PhD
from Southern Cross University in Australia. He taught logo design and
branding strategy at Hawaii Pacific University following over forty years
developing successful company logos. Dr. Haig is the co-author of The Power of Logos: How to Create Effective Company Logos, New York, Wiley Publishers,
1997. For more information, visit powerlogos.com.